The unofficial opening of the ElkFest was missing this year, due to a unique combination of events: Doctor Philip Bailey wasn't present to tap the barrel and the barrel arrived already tapped. Nevertheless, it was a fine barrel, although, for some mysterious reason, known only to those the who know the known knowns, it was attached to a slow-motion trebuchet. Also attracting a lot of attention, due to its absence, was the sun, which had been replaced by a last minute substitution - wind and rain and lots of it. Being entirely open to and at the mercy of the elements, the new-look Stage A was not looking at its best, but the Lodge Porter had a plan B up his sleeve - presumably because there was no 'arm in it.
Saturday evening and the new-new-look Stage A was transformed. With its new roof safely installed (a prototype to be employed at Wimbledon next year, I'm told - don't you mean too old - ED?) and its elegant side panels securely fastened with lashings of tent pegs, the stage was set for the official opening ceremony.
The Lodge Porter materialised, resplendent in his traditional white coat and cat flap, and delivered a rousing opening speech, welcoming both life-long Elkers and ElkFest virgins alike. There was mention of a very early arrival at this year's Fest, but, as some elder Elkers commented, this is not surprising, as with advancing age, the onset of Elksheimers is to be expected in some areas of the ever increasing herd. He also referred to an international incident at Stansted on Friday, when a Virgin Elk lost her official invite and was immediately swooped upon by a SWAT Team - not as reported in last night's Evening Moose, "swatted by a SWOOP Team". The Lodge himself was called to the scene to verify the virgin's credentials, although it has been confirmed that no poking about in the Country Section was involved.
And then it was cabaret time. But where was the MC? Mr Mole Pitchell had gone the way of Doctor Philip Bailey and the sun, and was replaced by a couple of muppets. It's a tribute to the official ElkFest MC that it required two MCs to replace his singularity (or four MCs, if you include the two bodyguards, who were ever present - presumably to prevent any possibility of personal and potentially grievous attack, such as excessive heckling). Despite the onerous weight placed on these muppets' lack of shoulders, they performed splendidly. They opened with a song and, introducing the ElkFest Summer Special, moved swiftly on to the first act.
Clive, Sue and Jemma regaled us with a love poem, Alas, it turned out to be a ruse to sell insurance. (Now that sponsorship has been suspended at the ElkFest, I suppose it was inevitable that product placement would quickly follow). But before anyone could complain, proceedings were interrupted by Suzanne with a news flash. Evidently some Elks had stolen a bicycle. New news for some, but old news for those who knew the known news. Remember the year the hedge was stolen? No, I can't either, but that's Elksheimers for you. The bulletin did have a cliff hanger ending though. The bicycle was broken beyond repair, but what happened to the Elk? Probably didn't cycle off into the sunset, as the sun hadn't bothered to turn up.
Then it was time for an ElkFest Virgin to squelch the mud. John, accompanied by Mike and supported by the Lodge Porter, put on an uncanny display of marching on the spot without moving. Did I say without moving? There was a tear in my eye, waiting for the preamble to cease, but this was due to the late arrival of adrenaline, in turn due to the accidental overindulgence of alcohol. The next turn was a short play entitled "Waiting for Goatee". Alas, he didn't turn up, nor did the sticky tape.
The final act was another family gathering and a traditional song with a twist. The twist being that it turned out to be a team of acrobatic worms, who flew through the air with the greatest of ease, with musical accompaniment provided by Colin, Anne and Andrew, singing On Elkly Moose Bar Tat. A respectful minute's silence followed, as both hosts and audience watched the tumble-weed blow across the stage during the open mic' entries. And with a final song from the muppets, which explained in gratuitous detail how to purchase Quorn on the Internet, the cabaret was over.
THE LAST ADVENTURE
Pausing just long enough to allow Elks to put in their orders for Quorn, the show carried on with the ElkFest Radio Play: "Doctor Who and the Last Adventure". It was a chilling tale of - no hang on, that was the weather - it was an uplifting story, but not in a more-tent-pegs-please sort of way.
This year, the Lodge was promoted to "Continuity Announcer" and given a mug sound effects were provided by Sven. (I wasn't convinced by his beard - it looked like it was stuck on with sticky tape). He replaced the ever fragrant Samantha, who was having a spot of trouble with her downstairs plumbing and decided to get Bob the Builder in.
Phil as the Doctor added his Peter Pan qualities to the show, whilst Hayden, as the other Doctor, was both amazing and amazed in equal measure. Cat, as The Mistress, was excellent most excellent, but Dave, as Sludge, was not a patch on Doctor Philip Bailey. Admittedly he's a hard act to understudy, but how difficult can it be to say "Yes" and "Mistress" in that order - very not, I'd say. Sue, as Jo, was utterly convincing until she was cruelly voted off by the audience. Jem, as Adric, suffered a similar fate - at which point I thought she might revert to her other role as Queen Victoria and add that she was not amused, but they both looked warmer in amongst the audience, than on the wind-lashed stage. Last to leave the Why Bother house was Kevin, played by a Dalek, played by Clive, or was it Clive, played by a Dalek, played by Kevin. It was hard to say, but they were all very menacing and a must when it came to the scrambled eggs.
LAST BUT NOT LOST
In a desperate attempt to warm us all up for the main act, the support band "Full Shrubbery" put on a brave performance, faced with a rising gale and the cold threatening to freeze your plectrum to your forefinger. They shrubbed with true ElkFest gusto and, fittingly, belted out a cracking version of Under Milkwood Flat's "Thunder and Lightning", which even had the weather joining in.
And then it was Crimson Shadow's turn to turn up the volume and raise the temperature with their familiar "wall of noise" that we all know so well, yet increasingly fail to recognise, as the line-up changes more frequently than a Virgin Rail passenger en route to Blackpool. This year, Sandra was accompanied by a welcome mat, which boosted the brass section and, with the weather improvising as a wind section, there was some fine blowing going on. It was an outstanding set, including a truly convincing version of "Take the weather with you", although it may have been even more convincing if they'd sung "Take the weather away with you". To be honest, I was too busy dancing to listen to the music, but I thoroughly enjoyed it all the same.
THE LOST CONTINENTAL
Sunday morning arrived early, but at least it turned up. I almost expected the surreal breakfast to include a corner table replete with Mole Pitchell, Doctor Philip Bailey, the sun and some sticky tape attached to some theatrical beards, but it was not to be. I tucked into my veggie sausage sandwich and wondered whatever happened to the croissants they used to serve?
This report of Elkfest 2006 was reproduced from the Widdington Evening Moose using a special lightweight protective jacket, a tray of ice cubes and a rusty nail.